Sunday, 27 September 2009

Fishwithoutbicycle, Patron Of The Arts

It’s been a soggy Sunday in New York today so I’ve been holed up at home cleaning my apartment and reading up on my upcoming trip to Iceland and trying to think about what I need to pack, although I’m struggling to get my head around packing for 40F degree temperatures when it’s a humid 68F outside.

Yesterday the weather was much nicer, a perfect sunny, crisp autumn day in fact, a good day for Melissa and I to check out the 13th Annual Art Under The Bridge Festival in DUMBO, Brooklyn this weekend. I love this festival, it's one of my favorite events in New York and the small neighborhood of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is always chocka with good looking people checking out the art.

The festival is produced by the DUMBO Arts Center and there's always all sorts of interesting sights to see, like these intriguing individuals clad head to toe in wool suits.

I bet those outfits were more than a bit itchy don't you? I'm not sure who was the brainchild behind this, but the woolly people were stationed all over the festival: by the subway station, at the gates of Brooklyn Bridge Park and outside the location of festival producer, DUMBO Arts Center. I found them quite creepy, like something out of Dr. Who!!

This installation is by Gav Barbey and was an interactive installation as visitors were encouraged to help the artist lay out 1000 pigmented ice blocks.

I'm not entirely sure what the intention behind this piece was, nor do I know who the artist was as I wasn't able to identify it in the festival guide.

Nor this...

These people marched around blowing whistles and waving their goldfish placards around and perhaps chanting too, I don't quite recall. The whistle blowing grated on me after a few minutes as I was still suffering with the remnants of my cold and was enjoying all the fun of a low grade sinus headache.

In addition to the street happenings a lot of artists open their studios for visitors to tour and I took the opportunity to visit the studio of my favorite New York artists, Jen Ferguson to buy a couple of prints for my parents who've been looking for some New York inspired art like this watercolor of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We also checked out Justin Davis' studio after a postcard of his work caught our eye in the building elevator. His work is beautiful and, as Melissa observed, has an Edward Hopper like quality. Unfortunately at $3000 a pop I couldn't quite drum up the necessaries to buy something, but maybe if I have a lottery win...
The one below reminded me of a really cool photographic art piece Catweazle produced of a warehouse in Charlotte, NC. Ahhh Catweazle, he would have loved the Art Festival.

Last but not least we came across a guy on the street selling whimsical New York inspired watercolors by another local artist, the Williamsburg based Ilia Pasymansky, which I thought were very sweet. Not exactly what my parents were looking for, but I liked them and ended up buying a couple of originals from his Etsy store when I got home. That's me, patron of the arts ;-)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Secret Of A Good Hair Day????

My hair has been gobsmackingly amazing today!!! It truly has, it's flipped and bounced in all the right places and I've received a multitude of compliments on how good it looked and a stranger inquired after the name of my hairdresser.

It's all the more astounding when you consider that this morning I realised mid-shower that I'd run out of shampoo and had to resort to washing my hair in shower gel. Fancy pants L'Occitane shower gel mind - acquired from an equally fancy pants hotel at a conference in Napa last year - but shower gel all the same!!

I'm thinking I might be onto something ;-)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Gabe Askew is a Talented Man

Still trying to shake off my damn cold and the DayQuil is making my head spin, but other than that it's all good and I am counting down my trip to Reykjavik where it's currently a bracing 39F!!! Brrrrr!!! What was I thinking booking a trip to Iceland in October????

Anyway my musically inclined work buddy has just shared this fabulous fan video for Grizzly Bear's song Two Weeks by the aforementioned Gabe Askew!! It's a treat for the eyes. Enjoy!!

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear from Gabe Askew on Vimeo.

Monday, 21 September 2009

I was going to post this weekend....

....but I came down with a stinking cold and my head is so stuffed up I feel like I've lost 100 IQ points. I really shouldn't be in work smickling folks with my germs, but there would have to be a critical 2010 client planning meeting today wouldn't there. Ugh. I am washing my hands frequently and warning people to keep their distance. I may work from home tomorrow.

Anyway here's a ditty from Amanda Palmer of (or formerly of? I'm not sure) The Dresden Dolls. I'm loving her "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" album at the moment and I do enjoy the song title association with to my local footie team in Yorkshire!!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Wouldn’t it be nice….

…If after every 10years worked you could qualify for a 3month paid sabbatical. Ah, I would love that wouldn’t you? I am totally in the mood for a break from the grind. I was saying to Megan just yesterday that it would be really nice if there was some option where you contributed a little bit of money so that every 10years you could take a 3month sabbatical with the funds accrued and your job would have to remain open, kind of like maternity leave, but for mental health. Hmmm, I think I might lobby Congress, because y’know Obama is not at all consumed with the whole issue of healthcare, so I am sure he would have lots of time for my silly ideas ;-)

I’m feeling so stressed out from work at the moment, which is probably a big reason I am craving a longer break than a typical vacation and I am still rolling around the idea of a possible move to San Francisco in the not too distant future. I’m not making any rash decisions though, since the San Francisco bug could be just because I'm sentimental for my recent vacation, I want to mull it over a bit longer and see if it’s still something I am considering in a few more months, but I do feel a need for something to change, I’m just not sure what. Whatever the decision I plan to stay in NYC at least until next summer so that I can gain more experience managing my newly expanded team and also mark my 10year anniversary in NYC and officially become a New Yorker. I think I get a sash from the mayor or something ;-)

I’ve spent much of the weekend slobbing at home on the sofa in sweats. I'm so tired. Last week at work was an especially tough one in a stressful year, although of course I do count my blessings that I have a job to complain about what with unemployment being on the high side. I always find that the 4day work weeks which follow a long weekend are usually more intense than usual, it’s almost as though everyone still expects 5days worth of work to be squeezed into 4. Mind you I did actually go into the office for 8hours on Labor Day and it didn’t help much. This weekend couldn’t come soon enough for me, although now that it's almost over I'm disappointed I’m not as well rested as I’d hoped to be. It didn’t help that my upstairs neighbour woke me up clattering home at 4.50am this morning and I never really got back to sleep. She kept the noise up for over an hour and I wondered what the hell she was doing - nooooo, not that. Honestly minds out of the gutter readers, well not unless she was having sex extremely quietly, but still managing to rock the bed across the room, since no human noises filtered through my ceiling. No it was more like she was just pottering around tidying up for an hour. Whatever she was doing it was very annoying. I finally got out of bed at 5:30am in frustration and was at the 24hour laundry by 6.30am. It's amazing how many people are walking their dogs at that time of a Sunday. Other than that all I’ve done today is spend a couple of hours in the gym doing a body conditioning and then a Pilates class, my usual Sunday routine which I don't usually have too much trouble with, but my arms are so sore this afternoon, it's like they've been replaced with two limp noodle strands.

Maybe I'll nip out for a wee tub of ice cream. I reckon I still have sufficient strength to lift a spoon of Haagen Dazs to my lips.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

San Francisco: Day 5 - Final Day in SF & Lunch with Labradors

Tuesday 25th August was our last day in San Francisco, but with a seat booked on the redeye at 9pm we still had plenty of time to make the most of the city and by 8:30am we were checked out of the hotel, with our bags stored with the concierge. Armed with a one day MUNI pass we hopped on the #2 bus and headed for breakfast at Ella's in Laurel Heights where I inquired of the waiter the ingredients of daily scrambled eggs.

“Bacon, feta cheese and asparagus,” he told me.

He had me at bacon. I lurve me some bacon, in fact pork in general hits the spot. Sara can’t quite believe my change given I was vegetarian for 7years and takes the piss out of me for my pork fetish. We speculate that perhaps I was a strictly observant Jew in a previous life and I'm making up for the deprivation now ;-)

I managed just about half of my eggs as the dish was a total gut buster and even consuming half was pushing the capacity of my stomach so I suggested burning a few calories with a walk through The Presidio, Crissy Field and up to Golden Gate Bridge to torch a few calories.

I love it out by Crissy Field, the air smells so fresh and clean and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge is breathtaking. I took countless photos.

We’d worked up an appetite after our reasonably long walk - I didn't have my pedometer like I did in China but I'm estimating we easily covered 3 or 4 miles - and it was after 12:30pm so I didn’t feel too much of a piglet that my thoughts were already turning to plan to have lunch at Tartine Bakery in the Mission (this time taking the MUNI metro train to Church & 18th and completely avoiding the dodgy looking types at the 16th & Mission BART station), described as unmissable by our guidebook, and highly recommended by my friends Megan and Gina who have both lived in San Francisco. On the way I emailed pastry chef Megan for recommendations

“Oooh, well it’s late in the day so some of the morning pastries might be gone, but my faves are 1) almond croissants 2) morning buns 3) veg quiche 4) choc croissant. If you are in the mood for dessert the coconut or banana tarts are amazing (they have whip cream on top, in the cold case).”

Hmmm, given we planned to hit up Bi-Rite Creamery a second time for one last delicious taste of salted caramel ice-cream – don’t visit San Francisco without trying this place people it really is amazing – I decided to get something savory for lunch instead and ordered a Humboldt Fog goats cheese pressed sandwich on walnut bread and an iced tea and Sara and I sat at the communal table sipping our iced teas and awaited our sandwich orders. I really wasn’t expecting them to be quite so humungous.

Given I fully intended to squeeze in an ice cream I decided to eat one piece, a third of the total sandwich and pack the rest in a to go box, however the desserts had been recommended so highly that I couldn’t resist getting a little sweet something too, so I got a chocolate hazelnut tart to go - more transportable than a banana tart with whipped cream recommended by Megan, although that did look amazing – the tart and the other two-thirds of my sandwich should set me up nicely for the overnight flight back to NYC.

After a stop at Bi-Rite creamery for a last single cup with one scoop of salted caramel (it really is the best) and one scoop roasted banana (it’s good, but it’s no salted caramel) we took a walk around Dolores Park trying to counteract our first impressions of The Mission with some success, continuing up Church just soaking up the neighborhood until we got to Market St and hopped on the F streetcar downtown to visit the Coit Tower via the Filbert steps.

There are a lot of steps. I know, because I counted as I staggered up them. This photo was taken after 134 steps had been climbed.

You do get to admire some pretty plant life along the way - see this bit of San Francisco, Telegraph Hill, is not at all barren, so things clearly grow in the city. I am just not sure why they don't share the plant love on Russian Hill or in Outer Sunset. I feel like doing some stealth plantings the next time I am in San Francisco. Check me, I'm a regular Percy Thrower.

210 steps climbed in total and then when you get to the top there's a fricking hill.

Oops silly me we weren’t at the top at all, there were still more steps...267, 268, 269...337, 338, 339.... 401...pant.... 402.... water...403!!! Made it.

Spectacular views are your reward...oh and let's just say I'd more than earned the extra calories for my chocolate hazelnut tart from Tartine Bakery.

Actually I was slightly peckish after all the stairs – lest you think all I did all day was eat, I feel the need to point out that by now it was some 3hours post ice-cream - so I decided to eat a second third of my Humboldt Fog goat cheese sandwich in the pleasant surroundings of the grassy area by the Coit Tower. I’d taken all but two bites when next thing I see is a golden retriever bounding rapidly towards me, my sandwich clearly foremost on his mind, quickly followed by a black lab. Labradors are such greedy buggers; our chocolate lab used to be just the same. There was no way the retriever was going to let me eat my sandwich, so the 3 of us shared it. Those dogs had expensive tastes; that sandwich cost me $10.75!!!

After about 10minutes the owner ambled laughing at the fuss his dogs were making of us. “Did you feed them?” he asked, “oh that probably wasn’t the best idea,” he frowned.

“I didn’t have much of an option” I smiled in response while thinking “Um…how about keeping them on a leash then, or, y’know, try keeping an eye on the pair of them." Honestly.

We rounded off our San Francisco trip with one for the road at The Hidden Vine, a lovely little wine bar tucked away in the back of the Fitzgerald hotel where I had a very pleasant Naumann Vineyards Chardonnay from Santa Cruz, a family owned vineyard that only makes 500 cases of wine a year, so our bartender informed us.

Our flight landed in NYC at 5am on Wednesday morning, where we were greeted by the fetid stench of an overly humid NYC summer and I was glad to have taken a great big lungful of Pacific ocean air while I was by the bay on Tuesday. Stopping by the ladies bathroom en route to baggage claim I jumped when I spotted the cockroach on the floor of the next cubicle. Ugh!!!

I arrived back at my apartment around 6.30am after some pretty maniacal driving through the streets of Queens by my cabbie who was in some sort of en route altercation with a man who I can only assume was named Jimmy judging by the name stenciled on the side of the ‘hoisting and scaffolding' truck he was driving. I’m not sure what happened, but I at one point I looked up from my Blackberry to see a white truck being driven very close to us on the left and the driver leaning over and shouting something at my driver through the passenger side window. Jimmy then cut in front of us while simultaneously giving my driver the finger and sped off into Long Island City while we took the bridge. Phew. My driver then had the cheek to try and get me to go to an ATM machine and get cash instead of swiping my credit card. I should cocoa. I didn’t need that after an overnight flight and a death ride through Queens thank you very much. The calm I had felt by the ocean in San Francisco had thoroughly dissipated. Grrrrr!!!!

So home sweet home??? Hmmm, I have to ponder about that a little more this year.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

San Francisco: Day 4 - Monterey, 17-Mile Drive & Carmel

For our 4th day in San Francisco we'd booked a tour down the Pacific Coast Highway, deciding to throw our hat in with Gray Line Tours rather than do it ourselves as Sara would have had to be the one doing all the driving. Can you believe I haven't driven regularly for close to 17-years? 7-years living in London followed by 10-years in New York where a car is unnecessary will do that to you. I've also only ever driven in the UK - on the correct side of the road thank you very much ;-) - and have only ever driven a stick shift. You really wouldn't want to take the risk with me behind the wheel, especially not on winding roads where one side is often a sheer drop to the Pacific Ocean. No, since I couldn't pitch in with the driving a tour was definitely the way to go.

We were the last people to get on the tour bus and the only spot was at the back with a circle of seats and a table in the middle occupied by an Italian couple in their twenties, the husband sitting by the window on the right side of the bus and the wife sitting diagonally across from him on the left and their bags taking up the seats in the middle - about 8 seats taken between the two of them, leaving two seats immediately to the left of the wife.

We sat, assuming she would move over slightly to make room and be closer to her husband. She didn't!!


After 2 hours we stopped for 20minutes in Davenport, headquarters of the Odwalla juice company according to Vince our congenial driver, for a loo break and breakfast for those who wanted it.

“Would you mind moving over slightly?” I asked politely when we got back on the coach.

“No, I was here first.”


“Well between the two of you there's plenty of room and I’m literally only asking you to move 6inches to your right, you and your husband will still be taking up more than half the seating area.”

“If I move over I will be looking down there” she said indicating the aisle of the coach, “and I don’t want to look there, I want to look there” she said pointing to the ocean.

“Oh I‘m sorry, you must have a medical condition that means you can’t turn your head? You should see a doctor about that.”

Of course I didn’t say anything so facetious, but only because I didn’t think of it at the time. I doubt she would have understood the sarcasm anyway. Instead I said something about how incredibly childish she was being and that she needed to learn some manners. For the rest of the journey she sat with her arms folded tightly across her chest with a scowl on her face like a moody teenager and I was pleased to have contributed to ruining the day of someone so unpleasant.

“And she’s married” said Sara as we got off the bus in Monterey. “Men say they don’t want bitches, but then they often go and marry women like her.”

While I know this is in fact a sweeping generalization I have to say my experiences have been such that I would disagree with Sara’s statement. Utter bitches like Petulant Paola always seem to have a man hanging on their every word.

Anyway enough words wasted on the witch, a few photos of Monterey below, the touristy bits at least.

This sea otter was the cutest, completely obsessed with washing its face. Maybe like me it's of an age where it's become wrinkle obsessed and is really doing a few facial exercises.

Pretty pretty jellyfish!!

My photos make the aquarium look empty, but the scene below was more typical. The place had more than its fair share of pushy parents and ankle biters, the ultimate contraception.

Do you see the seahorse in this photo? Look closer...its the orangey blob in the center cunningly disguised as a plant. Pretty freakin' amazing seahorse eh???

Here are some really teensy sea horses. They were only about an inch high.

And some penguins....

A shot of Cannery Row, the site of a number of former sardine canning factories, which have since been converted into shops and what not. The street apparently used to be named Ocean View Avenue, but was renamed in honour of John Steinbeck and his novels, which were inspired by the area.

Apparently John Steinbeck - who was raised up the road in Salinas - moved to Monterey in the 1940s - I think I have that right - but the locals weren't too flattered by his depiction of them in his books so he didn't receive the warmest of welcomes and he moved to New York pretty sharpish.

A quick lunch sat outside on the terrace at the Fish Hopper, recommended by our driver, which had a beautiful view of the bay - I had a local flounder-like fish, which sounded like sandaps, although I can't find it online so I think I probably have the name wrong. Sometimes it's better to be ignorant of what you've eaten. I remember this lesson from the one time, in an adventurous mood, I ate cuttlefish and then looked it up on the internet and ugh....good God!! Not pretty. Isn't cuttlefish also the stuff they dry out and stick through the bars of budgie cages?? - and it was back on the bus where, much to our amusement, Petulant Paola had left a pair of jeans folded on her seat so that we wouldn't steal her place. Ha ha, what an idiot!!

Next stop for photos was Pacific Grove where apparently 1115 Oceanview Blvd used to be owned by Clint Eastwood. There were lots of Aloe Vera plants growing at the side of the road and Sara said she was tempted to pull a few leaves off and rub them over her face to soothe her sunburn.

Um...a rock in Pacific Grove!!

And a cutesy Pacific Grove home, not Clint's though, although his was surprisingly modest.

Just after 3pm we arrived at the Pacific Grove gate to Pebble Beach and 17-mile drive, famous for its golf courses. The US Open will be played here in 2010 and apparently a 3-day stay which includes 3 rounds of golf at Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay and Spyglass hill costs over $3000. Bargain. I'll take 10 rounds please. NOT!!

Alternatively you can play 9-holes at Peter Hay golf course for $25!!

Next stop Bird Rock. Phewwwwwwwwww!!! That was really stinky from the bird poop and after about 10minutes I had to dash back on the bus to escape the stench!!!

Apparently the house in the photo below was featured in the Hitchcock movie The Birds. Fancy!!

The Lone Cypress, the official symbol of Pebble Beach.

We arrived in Carmel-By-The-Sea around 4.30pm. Our hour's stop provided enough time to nip to the loo, walk down to the beach, stop by the English sweet store - where Crunchie bars were a scandalous $2.95, but I did treat myself and Sara to one - and snap a few shots of houses that appeared to have been inspired by Grimm fairytales.

Even the shopping mall is quaint in Carmel.
The beach is lovely

A gingerbread style cottage in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Carmel is surreal for an English person, it's like being in The Cotswolds. Sort of!! Not quite as legitimately ye olde worlde obviously, but sort of!!

Who'd have ever pictured this place is where Dirty Harry would feel so at home.